On October 5, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that amended the state’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) to expand protections against age discrimination. In short, the new law bars employment discrimination against workers age 70 and over and broadens the remedies victims of age discrimination can pursue to obtain relief.
Despite these amendments, proving age discrimination is difficult because employers know how to conceal their discriminatory motives. The best way for older workers to protect their rights is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. Let’s take a look at the updated anti-ageism provisions of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
What are the changes to Law Against Discrimination?
The NJLAD prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and other protected characteristics. Prior to the amendments, the law contained provisions that (1) allowed all employers not to hire or promote workers over age 70 and (2) permitted state government employers to force workers to retire at age 70.
The new law repeals a provision of the NJLAD stating that “nothing herein contained shall be construed to bar an employer from refusing to accept for employment or to promote any person over 70 years.” Eliminating this provision means that employers in New Jersey are now barred from refusing to offer employment or promote individuals solely because they are 70 or older.
Additionally, the new law eliminates a provision allowing state governmental employers to force employees to retire at certain ages. Now, state employees must be given the opportunity to work later in their careers as long as they can adequately perform their job duties. Moreover, both public and private institutions of higher education will no longer be permitted to require tenured employees at colleges and universities to retire at the age of 70. In short, employers must ensure that age is not among the criteria for evaluating an employee’s performance.
Finally, the new law expands the remedies available in a claim of unlawfully being required to retire because of age. Previously, legal recourse was limited to filing a complaint with the Attorney General to seek reinstatement and back pay.
Under the amended LAD, employees now have the ability to obtain “all of the remedies provided by any applicable law.” This includes filing a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Human Rights, filing a lawsuit in state court, or pursuing a claim under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to obtain compensatory damages, punitive damages, front-back, as well as attorneys’ fees and legal costs.
Why This Matters
Although the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination has been considered one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation, workers 70 and older were not unprotected from age discrimination. The new anti-ageism provisions of the LAD are a significant development as statistics show that more employees in New Jersey and around the country are working later in life.
In sum, it is crucial for both public and private employers to review their hiring, promotion, and retirement policies and practices to ensure compliance with the amended LAD. And if you have been subjected to age discrimination in the workplace, talk to an experienced New Jersey employment lawyer at Lipsky Lowe.